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Jalhay (Municipality, Province of Liège, Belgium)

Last modified: 2016-11-08 by ivan sache
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Flag of Jalhay - Image by Ivan Sache, 29 March 2016


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Presentation of Jalhay

The municipality of Jalhay (8,004 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 10,775 ha) is located 15 km east of Liège and 15 km north of Spa. The municipality is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Jalhay and Sart.

Jalhay was most probably already settled in the Roman times, the region being crossed by the Via Mansuerisca that linked Trier to Maastricht. The area was evangelized in the 7th century by St. Remaclus, who founded the famous abbeys of Stavelot and Malmedy, as well as the mother churches of Theux, Sart and Verviers. The daughter churches of Spa and Jalhay depended on the church of Sart. Built in 1515 by Jean Groulart, the St. Michael church of Jalhay replaced an early chapel dedicated to the same saint. At the same time, Charles Martel founded several domains, including those of Sart, Jehanster, Trois-Fontaines and Surister (717). Jalhay was part of the domain of Franchimont, one of the preferred hunting places of Charlemagne, who, accordingly, did not encourage its settlement. In his Histoire du ban de Jalhay, J.S. Renier claims that one of the oldest settled places in Jalhay was called "Tchin'ri", the local form of "Chiennerie" (from chien, "dog") because the hounds were kept there during the hunting parties. In 1012, King of Lotharingia Zwentibold transferred Franchimont to the Prince-Bishop of Liège, who was not fond of hunting and favoured the clearing of the domain. In 1500, further clearings were forbidden by a Decree of the Prince-Bishop, which was the origin of several hedges (in French, haie) that have survived in the local toponyms (hé Bayard, hé de Foyr, Belle hé, Dojhé, Morehé, haie Lepuille, haies Raquet, haie Henkinet, haie Vinaimont, haie du Procureur...)
A High Court of Justice was set up in Jalhay, whose judges were already mentioned in 1405. According to the Law of Liège, the Court was made of a Mayor and seven judges, four of them having to live in Jalhay, all appointed by the Prince-Bishop, and later by the Governor of Franchimont. The sessions of the Court were opened by the Mayor, who raised the Justice Wand, aka the Lord's Wand; the Jalhay wand is shown in the Museum of the Walloon Life in Liège. In 1600, Jalhay and the other towns of Franchimont were allowed to appoint themselves two Mayors and judges, so that the Court of Justice lost its importance. Symbol of the municipal liberties, the only perron that ever existed in Jalhay was built in the village of Surister.

Jalhay lived mostly from agriculture but industry was also encouraged. In 972, Guido of Amblève exempted from corvées the miners and the iron workers. The iron industry really developed in the early 15th century under the leadership of the French ironmaster Jean Groulart, who settled in Surister, probably knowing that the region was rich in iron ore. Forges, "iron mills", foundries, "platine mills" and even a "silver mill" were set up along the river Hoëgne between Solwaster and Royompré. The Groulart family bought several pieces of lands in Surister, which might explain the nickname of petite France (Little France) given to the village. The Groulart lived in Jalhay from 1419 to 1768; in the 19th century, slag was reworked in Membach and Dolhain. From 1858 to 1861, the Membach factory reworked 2,700 tons of slag from Jalhay. The forges were not always profitable to the village: in 1468, Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold destroyed the forges, in which the arms used by the Six-Hundreds of Franchimont during the Liège revolt had been made. The tradition says that the Six-Hundreds were led by Georges of Strealle / Straihle, from Jalhay.
In the next centuries, Jalhay, located on the border of the Principality of Liège with the Duchy of Limburg, then part of Brabant, and too close to the fortress of Limbourg, was often plundered. The village was so severely damaged that Prince-Bishop Ernest of Bavaria personally refunded the villagers to help them to survive. In 1647, Louis XIV's troops, commanded by General Housse, burned 90 houses and killed several villagers, including some from Sart who had attempted to defend Jalhay. In 1675, Marshal of Créquy settled in Jalhay with 6,000 riders and infantrymen, preparing the siege of the fortress of Limbourg, which surrendered on 21 May. Annexed by France in 1680, Jalhay was for a while incorporated into the County of Chiny. Because of poverty and hunger, several villagers from Jalhay and Sart emigrated in 1685 to Germany, where they worked in the forges of Wehr and Schleiden. In 1703, Duke of Marlborough, commanding an Anglo-Dutch-Swedish army made of 25 batallions and 40 squadrons, expelled the French and the Spaniards from the fortress of Limbourg on 22 December. According to J. S. Renier, Marlborough did his best to preserve Jalhay from destruction and looting. At that time, lady Marlborough stayed at the castle of Vinalmont, near Huy, whose owners were related to the Groulart of Jalhay, which might explain why the village was preserved.
During the French rule, the Court of Justice was transferred from Jalhay to Malmedy, which did not improve the already sad situation of the village. Powered by a strong wind, a blaze destroyed in 1835 67 houses, the church, the town hall, the school and the castle. The villagers were rehoused by the inhabitants of the neighbouring hamlets, while several Belgian municipalities, the workers of the Houget spinning mill in Verviers and the newspaper Le Journal, of the same town, started fund aids for the rebuilding of Jalhay. The doctor Rutten and the chemist Defooz offerred free service to the villagers for one year. Queen Marie-Louise sent money from her own. Jalhay was eventually totally rebuilt, except the castle, whose stones were used to build new houses; a bas relief from its fireplace can still be seen in the Sotrez bakery. The former site of the castle remained bare ground from 1835 to 1922, until the Delhaize (today Lemaître) shop was built.

The Baraque Michel, located on the former border between Prussia and Belgium, on the desert plateau of Hautes Fagnes, famous for its harsh weather, is the second highest point of Belgium (674 m); the Baraque (lit., "hut") was founded in 1811 by Michel Schmitz, from Herbiester, as an inn and shelter for lost travelers; a bell was sounded here by heavy fog, which saved dozens of people in the 19th century (the same tradition still exists in the plateau of Aubrac in Auvergne, France). The "Iron Book" listed the names of the rescued people; it was destroyed during a blaze on 14 September 1889 but a copy had been made short before, listing 126 names.
The legend says that Schmitz lost his way and promised to build a shelter if saved, which he was, of course miraculously. He built a hut for an hermit, later transformed into an inn. The legend was popularized by the local writer Albert Bonjean, aka "The Cantor of the Fagne", and by several tourist guides. The historian Klinkenberg showed that the legend was indeed another version of a much more ancient tale related by Marcellin La Garde, probably revived by the owners of the Baraque Michel to attract even more customers. During the Prussian rule on the Eastern Cantons, the Baraque Michel was used as a post house for the coaches linking Eupen and Malmedy via the Belgian territory. Located close to the Baraque Michel, the Fischbach chapel was built in 1830-1831 by the industrial of Malmedy Henri-Toussaint Fischbach, whose father-in-law was saved around 1819 by the owner of the Baraque and who had, as a reward, transformed the hut into an inn and purchased the bell. It was mostly expected to be the nucleus of a rural colony called Fischbach hamlet, which never emerged, though. In the past, the chapel was surmonted by a small lantern lit by the owner of the Baraque Michel every evening.
Built not far from the Baraque either and near a former Belgian-Prussian borderstone, the Engaged Couple's Cross (Croix des Fiancés) replaced in 1931 an older cross built around 1906 to commemorate the death of François Reiff and Marie Solheid. On their way to Xhoffraix, where they had to pick papers required for their marriage, they lost their way on the Fagne during a snow storm on 22 January 1871. On 22 March, a Prussian customer found Marie's body near borderstone #151. In Marie's blouse was found François' last letter, saying "Marie has just died, so will I soon". François' body was found 2 km farther near the hamlet of Solwaster.
[Jalhay au passé et au présent by E. and G. Vitrier]

Sart is a relatively recent settlement, as shown by its name, meaning a clearing (see the French word essart). The chapel of Sartum was mentioned for the first time in 1131. Sart is a very common toponym in Wallonia; Sart mentioned here was in the past known as Sart-lez-Spa, to differentiate it from the other former municipalities of Sart-la-Bruyère (today part of Frameries, Hainaut), Sart-la-Buissière (Lobbes, Hainaut), Sart-Bernard (Assesse, Namur), Sart-Custine (Gedinne, Namur), Sart-Dames-Avelines (Villers-la-Ville, Walloon Brabant), Sart-en-Fagne (Philippeville, Namur), Sart-Eustache and Sart-Saint-Laurent (Fosses-la-Ville, Namur).
The historian Detroz claimed that Sart was originally named Gayalans and then Surmont, and that Sart was part of the County of Sichard, granted by Charles Martel in 717 to Guido of Amblève after the battle of Amblève, but there is no evidence to support his claims. In the Middle Ages, Sart depended on the domain of Trois-Fontaines (today a hamlet), owned in 1382 by Thierry of Fléron. On 10 July 1792, Sart was made an independent community by the St. Lambert chapter of Liège, transferred to Baron of Stembier on 27 June 1793 and suppressed in 1794 following the invasion of Belgium by the French army.
On 7 March 1918, the German higher staff set up the Sart-Spa-La Ried Circle (Bezirk), a territory completely isolated from the rest of Belgium and expected to be used as a shelter by the Kaiser in case of defeat. The center of the Circle was the castle of Neubois, where a concrete shelter was built. All roads and bridges heading to the neighborhood were watched by old soldier from the Landsturm. A passport issued by the Kommandantur of Spa was required to enter the Circle. The Circle disappeared on 10 November 1918, on the eve of the Armistice that ended the First World War.
[Histoire du ban et de la commune de Sart-lez-Spa, by M. A. Michoel, 1904]

Ivan Sache, 4 August 2007


Flag of Jalhay

The flag of Jalhay, submitted on 27 October 2014, after validation on 5 September 2014 by the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community, is prescribed by a Decree adopted on 10 December 2014 by the Executive of the French Community and published on 24 February 2015 in the Belgian official gazette, No. 53 (text), pp. 14,176-14,179.
The flag is described as follows:

Flag: Three vertical stripes, black, white, and blue, the white stripe twice longer than the two other ones and charged in the center with a blue perron.

The perron of the Ban of Jalhay was erected in front of the castle owned by the Groulard family in Surister. Destroyed during the French Revolution, it was rebuilt from scratch in 1992, based on a plate by Remacle Le Loup (1694-1746) and on a fragment of column (municipal website; photo).

The arms of Jalhay are prescribed by a Royal Decree signed on 16 October 1980. The coat of arms is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Per pale, 1. Sable a bend argent surrounded by two six-rayed stars or, 2. Argent a perron made of a column standing on three steps and topped by a pine cone surmounted by a cross all azure on a base proper charged with five clearing fires gules 3 and 2.

The clearing fires (feux d'essartage) are a straightforward representation of the former municipality of Sart.

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03], the flag was proposed by the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community.
This flag does not appear to have been used. The municipality recently re-discovered the proposal in "an official volume showing all the Belgian flags", undoubtedly, Armoiries communales en Belgique and ordered a copy of the flag. "Popped out of the hat a few weeks ago", the new flag stirred discussion during a session of the Municipal Council. A councillor from the opposition claimed that the flag should be officially approved. When preparing the submission, the Municipal Council noted that the municipal seal was not official, either. The Choisir Ensemble group eventually voted against the submission for official approval of the flag and seal. The opponents argued that "first, the proposed flags pooped up without consulting either the Municipal Council or the population, and, also, ignoring the official process of approval, and, second, as a very dark design, opposed to the green and dynamic image wished for the municipality".
The Mayor answered that every element and colour of the flag had a significant historical explanation (which is, unfortunately, not provided by the source)
[La Capitale, 30 April 2014].

Ivan Sache, Arnaud Leroy & Pascal Vagnat, 29 March 2016